Las Vegas Sun

October 1, 2014

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US Supreme Court won’t hear Nevada ballot case

CARSON CITY, Nev.— Nevada's unique "none of the above" voting option for statewide races will remain an election spoiler for the foreseeable future after the U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to consider an appeal by national Republicans.

The decision came after Republicans sued in 2012 to get the option, appearing as "none of these candidates," stricken from the ballot, fearing it could siphon votes from a disgruntled electorate and sway the outcome of close presidential races and Nevada U.S. Senate contests.

The option has been on the ballot since 1976. It applies only to statewide races and was enacted by the Legislature to try to curb voter apathy in the wake of the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon.

The intent was to give voters a way to voice their displeasure with candidates and elected officials at the ballot box.

The lawsuit argued that voters were disenfranchised because "none" is a perpetual ballot loser that cannot actually win an election. To give it constitutional credence, GOP lawyers said Nevada's election law needs to give "none" more weight by allowing it to win and setting up a process for voters to then decide on another actual candidate, such as a follow-up election.

Three months before the 2012 election, U.S. District Judge Robert Jones in Reno agreed, ruling the ballot option was unconstitutional. Lawyers for the secretary of state's office filed an emergency appeal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which stayed Jones' ruling, keeping it on the 2012 ballot.

A three-judge panel later dismissed the GOP suit outright, declaring the 11 plaintiffs lacked standing. That prompted the appeal to the nation's highest court.

Nevada is the only state in the nation where "none" is a ballot choice. While it has never received the most votes in a general election, it often plays the role of spoiler.

"None" wasn't a factor in the hard-fought re-election of President Barack Obama over Republican Mitt Romney two years ago. But its influence was hard to discount in the election of U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican, over Democratic challenger Shelley Berkley, a seven-term congresswoman.

Heller defeated Berkley by 12,000 votes, while "none" received more than 45,000 votes.

In 1998, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid eked out his re-election over then Republican Rep. John Ensign by a mere 428 votes. More than 8,000 voters rejected both men and opted for "none."

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